Simplifying Algebraic Expressions Activity

Dry-erase necklaces are at it again!  I cannot tell you how much I LOVE these things!

Today, I had my students choose a term (x, y, xy, x², 5, -1, 4) and write it on their dry-erase necklace.  THEN, if they chose x, y, xy, x², they had to add a coefficient to their term.  This was great because students had to look up exactly how to write a coefficient if they forgot – and several did.

After a discussion and a couple of examples of “like” terms…

  1. I went around the room and wrote everyone’s individual term on the board (16 terms total).
  2. I told my students to get up and find other people that were “like” themselves.
  3. After they were in groups with their like terms, they had to add write all of their terms on a small whiteboard and add them up.
  4. Then, they had to “arrange” the entire room (all of the final terms) into standard form.
  5. I then wrote the final terms on the board.

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There were GREAT discussions going on today:

  • First, does -1 go with 4 and 5?  YES – they are all constants, so they are “like”.
  • Who goes first around the room?  x² was largest so it goes first, constants went last.  It was fun watching them rearrange themselves, and each other!
  • They were really impressed with their gigantic algebraic expression, and the resulting smaller expression.

After this, they all grabbed white boards and we simplified many more algebraic equations.  My students usually get that 5a + 2b cannot be combined (apples and bananas), but have trouble with x and x².  Today was no different, and even after the activity they still wanted to make 9x + 2x² = 11x².  But, it was very helpful to be able to say, “When you got into groups, did the x’s go with the x²’s?”  They really seemed to get it better after that.

19 thoughts on “Simplifying Algebraic Expressions Activity

  1. Love this idea! I usually tell my students that x squared has more “power” than x – so they can not be combine 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Love your activity. I’m struck by the images of the students. What grade are these students? You have an awesome classroom! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: Math – Equivalent Expressions | Loving Teaching and Learning

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